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Rethinking East-Central Europe: family systems and co-residence in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Volume 1: Contexts and analyses – Volume 2: Data quality assessments, documentation, and bibliography


Mikołaj Szołtysek

This book reconstructs fundamental aspects of family organization across historical Poland-Lithuania, one of the largest political entities in early modern Europe. Using a plethora of quantitative measurements and demographic microsimulation, the author captures and elucidates the complex patterns of leaving home and life-cycle service, marriage and household formation, along with domestic group structures and living arrangements among different subpopulations of Poland-Lithuania, highlighting a variety of ways in which these patterns were nested in their respective local and regional contexts. By showing that at the end of the 18 th century at least three distinct family systems existed in the Polish-Lithuanian territories, Szołtysek challenges a number of orthodoxies in the ‘master narratives’ on the European geography of family forms of F. Le Play, J. Hajnal, P. Laslett, and their followers. Volume two of the book contains an extensive bibliography along with a thorough archival documentation of the census-like microdata used in the book, and provides detailed information on their quality and further technicalities pertaining to data analysis.
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7. Life-cycle service


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7.  Life-cycle service

‘Wanton children, of toiling the land capable, their parents desert, so as to accommodate themselves and serve at someone else’s household, thus acting to the detriment both of their parents and themselves as well’ [comment from the Book of Law of the Puck Starosty]1

‘Наняўся, як прадаўся’ (Hiring yourself, you are selling yourself) [Belarusian proverb]2

7.1  Introduction

Given the importance of service as a crucial destination stage of home-leavers, as was shown in the preceding analysis, this subject should be further explored, even if the phenomenon itself seems to have been largely confined to the Western part of the CEURFAMFORM collection. For decades, scholars have argued that the European Marriage Pattern and its associated features might have been conducive to early industrialisation and economic growth (Hajnal 1965; Laslett 1983). Recent contributions have stressed the importance of the mechanisms underlying the marriage pattern and the expansion of an extensive wage-labour market to the development of the capitalist economy (Hartman 2004; De Moor and Van Zanden 2010a). In particular, the widespread employment of young, unmarried people as live-in servants in pre-industrial Europe was described as critically important in attempts to link familial features with patterns of accumulation of savings and human capital formation (for criticism, see Dennison 2011b; Saito 2011). Servants were also seen as harbingers of change ← 319 | 320 → with respect to other spheres, including social and sexual life (Bras 2004; Fauve-Chamoux 2004; Matthys 2011).

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